Janelle Pierzina, Daniele Donato-Briones, Ian Terry, Nicole Franzel, Kaysar Ridha and more talk to ET about returning to the game.
Big Brother 22 is back with its second All-Star season -- and many of your favorite past winners and houseguests are returning for another chance at the grand prize.
But with the coronavirus pandemic forcing production to adopt new safety protocols and guidelines to ensure a successful run, this isn’t any normal Big Brother season. For the first time ever, all 16 houseguests -- from Janelle Pierzina and Daniele Donato-Briones to Bayleigh Dayton and Enzo Palumbo -- entered the house for the first time live on premiere night and already the house was fraught with dramatics once everyone was within the Big Brother walls.
"Once they go in there, they are going to be just like any other Big Brother cast in terms of the way that they are allowed to relate to one another," executive producer Allison Grodner said. Host Julie Chen Moonves, who will be outside the Big Brother house on a redesigned set without a live audience, added, "If you ask me, once you're in the Big Brother house, it might be one of the safest places to be."
With the all-stars ready to backstab, strategize and play their way through Big Brother, here are what seven favorites told ET about returning for a shot at glory, what their strategy will be and why they think they can win it all.
A Big Brother legend, Janelle is no stranger to the game, having competed three times (seasons 6, 7 and 14) but never winning. The closest she’s come has been third place on Big Brother 6 and Big Brother 7 -- the franchise’s first All-Star season -- but she’s garnered a reputation for being a competition beast. “The reason I decided to come back was because of the all-stars cast. I played in the very first All-Stars, and I know the producers have a lot in store for us… so I said yes,” she shared, adding that this second All-Stars run will be “bigger.” Still, Janelle is absolutely aiming for her first Big Brother win. “I absolutely want to win, obviously,” she said. “I would not want to come back if my head and heart was not in it to win it, but this time, I want to have a ton of fun with it too.”
As for whom Janelle hopes to see back in the house, she’d like to “see anyone who I would have worked with before or been in an alliance with… that [I] can potentially have a secret alliance with.” She zeroed in on Daniele Donato-Briones as someone she admires for her competition prowess: “If she were in the house, I feel like I could definitely work with her.” Though she didn’t commit to a strategy just yet, Janelle explained the houseguests will inform how she’ll approach the game. “I am always sticking to what works with strategy, but as far as what you can do completely strategy-wise, I need to see who is in the house.” The quarantine, though, may affect game play, Janelle hypothesized. “Mentally, a lot of people might not be as strong because they have been locked down for so long. I am an introvert by nature, so for me, I love quarantine, I love being locked away. It makes me more mentally strong than ever,” she said. “I want to play super cutthroat. I want to go out with a bang.” Now 40, Janelle hopes her going back into the Big Brother game proves “you can do anything at any age.” “It has been 15 years since my very first season. You can be just as good in a competition and a game player 50 years after your very first season.”
A Big Brother fan favorite, Daniele is hoping the third time’s the charm. In her last two tries, she placed second to her father, Evel Dick, on season 8 and later eighth in her season 13 return. “Two losses! If I have another one, I’m definitely never coming back after this,” the 33-year-old Huntington Beach, California, native quipped. “I have enough losses under my belt where I’ve learned my mistakes where this time I can do it.” In 2013, Daniele married fellow Big Brother 13 houseguest Dominic Briones (“My husband is seriously the greatest human ever; he’s so supportive, understanding”) and welcomed a baby girl in 2018. Being away from her daughter, Tennessee Autumn, for an extended period of time gave her pause in participating in the franchise’s second All-Star season. “I have a daughter now and I’ve never been away from her ever, ever, ever, so when I got the call I just started bawling -- like weeping. I’m happy, I swear, thank you so much; like a typical woman, happy and sad and I don’t even know what I’m feeling, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do. I was like, I can’t leave my daughter, but I also can’t say no. It was really, really hard to make that decision.”
The time away from her family will be a daunting test for Daniele. “I’m so emotional, I’m not going to lie. My goal is to not cry all the time,” she said. “I have a strategy for crying more than playing the game -- literally wake up in the morning when I’m feeling sad, get in the shower and cry my eyes out, let it all out, leave the shower and leave it all there, and just get back in the game. I’ve already accepted that. It’s okay to cry.” Her strategy to connect with potential allies will be to use her social skills to her benefit. “Coming in this time, my whole goal is to walk in the house and start flattering people and drown them in compliments. I feel like we all share the same experience that nobody else can share and it’s going to be a whole new game. I connect really well with people, like people genuinely like me in real life and I just need to portray that in the game and get them to want to keep me around because they like me. I think that’s very important in the beginning.” As for what Daniele wants to prove, it’s that she “can win.” “I want to freakin’ win the show. I want to be the winner of All-Stars. I want to dethrone the BB Queen and be known as the BB Queen, you know? I want people to recognize my game and see me as the best female player that’s ever played the game.”
Nearly a decade after winning Big Brother 14, where Ian pulled off a victory over Big Brother legend Dan Gheesling, the 29-year-old Tulane University graduate is back for a second chance at glory. A self-proclaimed “superfan,” Ian admitted he was “definitely a little bit excited” about playing the game again -- this time among some of the game’s best. But being a previous Big Brother winner will definitely put a target on his back the second he enters the house. “There’s just no question about it. Last time when I played, the returning players kind of had a buffer for a few weeks,” he said, referring to the coaches twist in season 14 that allowed the four alums, which included Janelle, to safely stay in the house for the first few weeks. “We’re vulnerable right off the [bat]… That being said, you never know who’s going to be in there, so hopefully bigger targets.”
For Ian, deciding to play again wasn’t due to a desire to win the grand prize (“The monetary hunger is not there”), but rather to see if he could pull off a second win (“That I still got it”). “I’m definitely excited to get in there and give it a shot, and [see] if I’m going to play the same. I probably am, I think; what I had last time was solid.” Ian flew under the radar for much of season 14, aligning with the right players, his nice, unassuming demeanor and intelligent game play securing him the win. Even so, Ian confessed he’s “nervous” playing alongside houseguests from “really recent seasons,” because he isn’t as familiar. “If they’re all buddies outside of here and then I go [in] and I don’t have anyone, then that’s going to be a problem.” And don’t expect a showmance for Ian, either: “I’m spoken for, so that’s off the table.” What could be the key to Ian becoming Big Brother’s first two-time winner? “I’m smart. I feel like that’s the general ace-in-the-hole for me in this game.”
Could Nicole prevail again? She’s banking on it. “I definitely plan on being the first-ever two-time winner,” the 28-year-old declared, adding that her Midwestern charm, sass and feistiness can be to her benefit. “I’m going to try and be myself and establish real friendships and hope that takes me pretty far.” This is Nicole’s third trip inside the Big Brother house, having placed seventh on season 16 and winning season 18. Authenticity, she said, will be her strategy this time around. “In [season] 18, I felt like I had more to prove, and now that I already won, it’s like, hey, back to being myself and let’s win as me.’”
Asked why she wanted to return to the game, Nicole admitted she has nothing to prove “except that I did deserve my win in Big Brother 18.” “I know some people are like, ‘Paul was robbed.’ He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely think I deserved it,” she explained. “I’m doing it because I love the game. I just love playing. I don’t think I’ll ever say no unless I have kids. Then, it’ll probably be really hard to come.” Even so, Nicole believes No. 3 may be it for her: “This is probably my last time playing.” Engaged to fellow Big Brother 18 houseguest Victor Arroyo since September 2018 and with a wedding set for December in Turks and Caicos (with several familiar Big Brother alums on the guest list), Nicole hopes to have kids soon. She admitted not having her fiancé in the house with her will be “weird.” “I’m going to have to find that in somebody else. I’m really looking for someone who’s loyal, can do well in competitions, and really, the No. 1 thing is I gotta trust my gut.”
It’s been 14 years since Kaysar last played Big Brother, most recently appearing on the last All-Star run in season 7, where he was evicted twice. Kaysar’s time on Big Brother was marred by one of the biggest blindsides on All-Stars, when he gave up the Head of Household only to be betrayed and evicted a second time. He placed 10th both times he played (seasons 6 and 7). “I thought they accidentally butt-dialed me and they confirmed that that was not the case -- that it was intentional. I was still shocked nonetheless,” admitted the 39-year-old biotech executive and father of a 4-year-old son (“It’s going to be hard [being away from him]”). His biggest hope for his third go-around is to “do better than the last time.” “Anyone that knows me knows that I’m always trying to outperform, so this is another opportunity where I’m like, you know what, I get to do it in front of millions of people. Let’s do this.”
Though he didn’t come close to winning the previous two tries, Kaysar believes he has what it takes to come in “first place.” “I think I know how to play this game. I know what it takes -- and I’m gunning for the gold.” As Kaysar explained it, putting together another All-Stars season, especially in the middle of a pandemic, may create incredible drama for viewers: “From my perspective, this is going to probably be a powder keg that we’re going to watch explode on national television.” While Kaysar’s been away from the game for a minute, he hopes to align with “trustworthy” players. “I play a certain type of game that is principled, and so I need really even-keeled, like-minded individuals,” he explained, before referencing the Sovereign Six alliance he started on Big Brother 7. “I need to create an alliance and people from my past. Someone like Janelle would be awesome. I want to play against incredible folks who know what they’re doing; the likes of Derrick [Levasseur] and Dan [Gheesling].”
On Big Brother 16, Cody partnered up with eventual winner Derrick Levasseur for nearly the entire season, coming up short in the finale. Returning for a second go at the game, the 29-year-old said he has “something to prove,” which made his decision to return “easy.” “It's like getting that far and falling short. It's like, how could you not? As a person that likes winning, how could you not want to go back to prove something?” The New Jersey native said he vows to prove he “wasn’t just Derrick’s puppet” in season 16. “We were, in my opinion, one of the greatest duos that played the game,” he said. “There was an aspect of my game that made us go to the end and allowed Derrick to be what he was, and it was completely overshadowed. I’m not trying to say in any way, shape or form that I was a ‘Derrick.’ I wasn’t a manipulator… the reason why Derrick was able to do what he did was because of the social aspect of me being in with everybody… I wasn’t just a puppet, and I’m here to prove it.”
Cody, who has been happily in a relationship for the past four years, said being away from Big Brother allows him to approach the game differently this time. “When I went in the first time, I was 23, just out of college, just ended my athletic [career], so winning competitions was huge. That’s not a huge aspect to me anymore,” he said. “I think I need to have a slight adjustment of what I did the first time and I think I can do well.” He’s confident he has the goods and perspective to make it all the way to the end. “I think I’m going to win because I’m a completely different person than I was when I went in. I’ve matured, I’ve learned way more, I’ve dealt with way more different experiences in my life, whether it’s business or personal. I think it’s for the better.” Being away from his family (older brother Paulie Calafiore competed on Big Brother 18) and his longtime girlfriend, who beat cancer after being diagnosed in her early 20s, will be the hardest part of the experience. “She’s my rock and vice versa,” he said. “I call her when I first get in the car. At night, I call her. Not having that person to vent, to bounce stuff off of, it’s going to be tough.”
Will Da’Vonne have a better shot this time around? The Big Brother alum has competed twice before, placing 16th on season 17 and 11th on season 18. She’s looking at her third try as a vow for “redemption,” after getting blindsided by two-time runner-up Paul Abrahamian on her second stint. “People pray for an opportunity to play this game once. I’ve played twice and now I’m back for a third time. If history is writing itself, then I’ve experienced what it’s like to be in pre-jury, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be a jury member. It’s time to win. That’s the way to make the story come full circle. I’m ready.” Don’t underestimate Da’Vonne’s drive to win it all. “I want to win so bad, and it’s not from ‘I have a point to prove,’ it’s more so I love this game so much and I’ve loved this game since I was a child. Watching this with my grandmother and growing up on it... Like I told Julie when I was evicted in season 18, I would play this game again and again and again and again.”
To prepare for the season, Da’Vonne said she’s been working out, building up her endurance and studying the game (“I feel like that was my downfall in my first season, I knew too much about the show”) in order to get a leg up on the all-star competition in order to survive the three-month-long grind. The 32-year-old promised she’s coming into the house with a new perspective and cautioned that All-Stars is going to be “extremely intense”: “This time, I’m like, go in there and live in the moment.” Instead of a set strategy, she’s aiming for certain goals. “Goal No. 1: Go in there and shut up. Goal No. 2: Play beat by beat by beat. And when the twists come, be able to easily adapt.” Da’Vonne noted that Big Brother is as much a mental game as it is physical, and she said she’s doing it all for her daughter, Kadence. “Everything I do, I do for her. And that’s one thing I have to keep telling myself, because you do get to a point in the game where it’s like, is this worth it?” she said. “I’m here for her, so it’s almost like a refresh. Remember why you’re here; it’s definitely for her.”
Big Brother next airs Sunday, Aug. 9 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
To stay up to date on breaking TV news, sign up for ET's daily newsletter.